Ma’ said it was right by the Chippewa River, 2023 work in progress
In this series, I am (re)storying my relationship to my Midwest family history and the Minnesota farmland settled by my great-grandparents in the 1880s, just thirty years after the 1851 Traverse de Sioux Treaty forced the Dakota people off this land to make way for settlers like my great-grandparents to claim the land as their own. I moved away from Minnesota in the 1980s, and for decades, I researched my family history in Minnesota, poring over a box of my grandfather’s photographs, archival documents of farm deeds, and plat maps, and returning again and again to Minnesota to look for the farmplaces, churches and cemeteries that evidenced my great-grandparents settlement on the land. The title comes from my own mother's recollection of the farm place where she and her mother were born. Writing ourselves into the history of farmland gives us a sense that we have always belonged there, a kind of settler history and "common sense" that erases Indigenous existence and whitewashes the violence that allowed settlers to take the land and inscribe ourselves into it.
My work in this series makes visible the impacts of the colonial project of claiming land as ceded and no longer Indigenous, and I consider the ways I am implicated in a kind of settler common sense where our selfhood and belonging are linked to possession and control over land and the erasure of Indigenous existence. The names of my family are inscribed on hand drawn plat maps and their presence recorded faithfully in US Census records beginning in 1875. Yet, remnants on the maps of natural features like rivers and Indigenous place names leave clues that this land had a different purpose and a different future before settler colonialism. Through my action of cutting the maps and photographs and weaving them together, I interrupt the sense-making project of the plat map and call into question these forms of colonial knowledge that are so central my own sense of belonging.